What keeps me awake at night - Children living in an environmental disaster

31st January 2014 at 00:00

You might think that a 12-year-old telling you he is going to "drop-kick you in the fucking head" is a behaviour issue. It's not. If a 12-year-old child wants to drop-kick his teacher in the head, that's beyond playing up, there's something more going on.

We'll call him James. James is 12 years old. He is a brooding, angry little man. What he lacks in stature, he makes up for in aggression. Before he threatened to drop-kick me in the head, he'd offered to smash my face in. For several of his classmates, he hadn't bothered asking, he'd just done it.

We occasionally get on. If you ask him about football, you get a glimpse behind the curtain and realise he isn't that bad a kid, really. His grades are shocking, he is a bully and he is disruptive, but he's not rotten to the core like you find with some (admit it, they exist).

We tried sanctions but it was a waste of time. He didn't turn up and his mum doesn't answer the phone or respond to letters. We could exclude him - we have come close - but I spoke up for him and said I would do my best to turn him around.

Why? Because I know his home life is shocking. I know that his mum is a drug addict, that his dad is in prison for drug offences and that the estate in which he lives is rife with bad influence. I know that excluding James is the last thing he needs. Yes, it might help other children escape his influence and his disruption, but I find the cost of taking away the only stability he has in his life uncomfortably high.

He's 12 years old. He has no capacity to cope with the environment in which he lives. He has no outlet other than the raw anger that, temporarily, makes him feel better.

I have been given three months to demonstrate some improvement. I am now looking at boxing and other physical sports that may provide James with a controlled outlet for his anger.

Will it work? I have no idea. But I firmly believe that we need to at least try with students such as James. Making them pay for the situation they find themselves born into is not a necessary evil to help other students achieve, it's immoral.

The writer is a teacher in Scotland.

Tell us what keeps you awake at night

Email jon.severs@tes.co.uk.

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